Punchless Hoosiers fall to Wildcats, 68-55

EVANSTON, Ill. — Indiana is reeling, its season verging toward a Big Ten collapse.

A troublesome two-game road swing ended Sunday with few signs of progress for the ailing and aimless Hoosiers. Playing without leading scorer James Blackmon Jr., Indiana turned in another dud of a performance as this season of unmet potential hit another low.

The 68-55 loss to the Wildcats brought a season-worst scoring performance for the Hoosiers, whose old wounds were coupled with the latest injury blow in a season full of them.

“We’ve just got to keep improving, we really do,” IU coach Tom Crean said. “We can’t do anything about what we don’t have, who we don’t have. We can’t do anything about that.”

Improvement Sunday was limited to small segments, if it was present at all. Thomas Bryant was one of the few bright spots, turning in a double-double of 23 points and 12 rebounds.

Otherwise, these were the same Hoosiers (14-8, 4-5) who’ve turned in the Big Ten’s worst defensive play, and this time, those holes were matched with an offense lacking the potency of one of the nation’s top scorers.

Yet, after suffering one of the worst losses in Crean’s nine seasons at IU, the Hoosiers’ early effort suggested this game could be different.

Indiana built a 10-1 lead during the first five minutes, but Northwestern swung back with a 20-2 run that shifted control in the Wildcats’ favor. It was a span that saw the Hoosiers commit seven consecutive turnovers and go eight minutes between baskets.

It didn’t get any better from there.

“The key was we let them get a couple run-outs and get some confidence,” Crean said. “We probably needed to recognize even earlier with some of the decisions with the ball that would’ve saved us some turnovers. Really, the story of the game for us the first half is the difference of the turnovers and the points off turnovers.”

Yes, Indiana’s season-long struggle with ball security once again played a part in this team’s undoing. The Hoosiers committed 10 of their 13 turnovers during the first period, directly leading to 15 points for the Wildcats.

That was separation Indiana never truly sliced into.

“I think it was just a lack of focus,” guard Robert Johnson said. “When we try to make home run plays, it never ends out well for ourselves. It all comes down to making simple plays.”

Meanwhile, native Hoosier Bryant McIntosh held the upper hand in the many defensive matchup combinations Indiana threw at him. The Greensburg product scored 21 points and added eight assists, helping the Wildcats to their sixth consecutive win and their ninth win over Indiana in the last 15 meetings.

McIntosh’s big night against the Hoosiers came after he was held to four points in Bloomington last season.

“He has a lot of pride,” Northwestern coach Chris Collins said. “Indiana is one of the best states for basketball in the country. I love Indiana — the high schools, the grassroots, what IU’s done, you got Butler, Notre Dame. Indiana is such a basketball-rich state. Bryant loves his state. He grew up watching all those teams and you have an opportunity now in college, it’s something that’s going to mean a little bit more. … I thought his emotions got the best of him last year in Assembly Hall, and he would probably admit as much. I thought he tried to do too much and pressed a lot. I thought tonight he just played.”

For short-handed Indiana, Bryant tried to be every bit as much of a rock. On the course toward his double-double, he played strong and aggressive, even as the Wildcats tried to double down on him.

Bryant’s 23 points tied his career high, while the other four Indiana starters combined to shoot 7-for-33 from the field. That group included freshman Devonte Green, who made his first career start in place of Blackmon.

“We’ve lost a couple guys that are at the top of the list on the scouting report (in Blackmon and OG Anunoby), so it just ratchets it up for everybody else,” Crean said. “The key is that you don’t try to do too much yourself. You take what the game is giving you. There were some times on the break when we shot it too quick. We had to really understand the pace of the game in this one today, but Thomas did a great job of getting open.”

Taking advantage of IU’s cold shooting and disconnected defense, Northwestern held a 35-23 lead at halftime. IU didn’t get any closer than 10 points in the second half, while Northwestern built its lead to as many as 18 points with 7:28 remaining.

Where IU’s depth was once believed to be a strength, it is now being tested.

Approaching Wednesday’s home game with Penn State, it’s a test the Hoosiers are struggling to pass.

22 comments

  1. Time to stop making excuses. IU was playing poorly with OG and Blackmon. Without those two, the season is over and IU will be hard pressed to beat anyone. Tom Crean is a bad coach. His teams play some of the worst defense in the country. His offensive schemes are confusing and he is terrible at making in-game adjustments. Incredibly, he thought Newkirk was an acceptable point guard to take Yogi’s place. What a joke! Beyond that, he cannot recruit the top players in the state of Indiana. The IU fan base and alumni should be up in arms and demand that a different coach represent a program that should be a top-tier basketball destination for coaches and players. Time for a change but I feel the injuries to OG and Blackmon probably bought him more time.

  2. Someone said they thought Crean’s buy out was $1 Million after July 1,2017. I don’t think I would wait to go looking so IU could keep the committed and see who leaves and recruit accordingly. Its very clear that CTC can only coach to a certain level and then spiral dives to the basement. The regression of Thomas Bryant is example, Josh Newkirk is NO point guard and Crean cant figure out HOW to play Robert Johnson.

  3. I sure agree with both comments above. I was shocked at how this game got away after a strong start. I didn’t understand a lot of what was happening, frankly.

    I do think that Penn State, at home (thank goodness) is going to be a win, but feel we are going to have some trouble with Purdue (both games).

    Watching dysfunction is somewhat interesting but not fulfilling.

  4. Want to see what next year’s team is going to look like? I present to you today’s team.

    The constant in Crean’s programs has been constant chaos. It’s always something. Injuries or no, this team wasn’t setting anyone’s faces on fire. Our recruiting next year is still looking pretty soft. And, interestingly, we’re over-signed. So more chaos to come. So who’s gonna bolt? Well, I bet I have one answer:

    What’s happened to Curtis Jones? Talk about the ultimate [blank]-tease. Oh brother. 2 min, 2 turnovers and zeros everywhere else. If you can’t find playing time now….I think we found the first guy who will be thrown under the bus next year.

    Also, De’Ron Davis…why so limited on the minutes? I understand that he’s an insurance policy in case Bryant gets into foul trouble, so you want him fresh off the bench…but not to the extent he’s sitting on the pine now. In a bareknuckle match of grind it out in the half-court, I would think him and Bryant together could have caused some mismatches, then our guards could find a few more open looks or some driving lanes.

    Anyway, Northwestern didn’t bring their A-game tonight. But the Hoosiers are a pretty terrible basketball team.

    Glad to hear that JBJ’s MRI came back negative. Hope he can suit up again soon.

    1. FYI, Crean said on the pregame radio show that Curtis Jones sprained his ankle in practice on Friday and wasn’t sure how much he could go. So that’s probably why Jones only played 2 minutes.

  5. I just listened to Tom Crean’s rather combative press interview and am confused by his concern with “synergy”.

    After each loss I’m learning more about process and strategy of our young team which is constantly getting better, and yet…during the next loss I’m still confused about what is going on.

  6. Just listened to first part of Crean’s press conference and he hit nail on head with the problem they had in first half:::: turnovers. Hey Coach…Turnovers have hampered your teams for the past 5 years!!! This years team even before the injuries play “the game” much like they did 2 years ago. Too much dribbling then shooting bad shot or turnover…why is it your teams never NEVER seem to progress in development after a certain level??

  7. Much of the problem goes beyond coaching…I think the talent is severely overrated. Crean’s recruits always land higher on the charts due to “upside” and physical attributes. Outside of Wade, most of his “lottery pick” guys are plagued by inconsistencies….They still lack that “it factor” and have yet to show any signs of entering a level of play that seems to match with hype and natural athletic ability.

    I see much of the same issues on this roster…We just don’t have guys that really embody maturity and savvy on the basketball court. The are like hoops Maseratis on training wheels. The recruiting classes are overrated because the basketball IQ(training wheels) can’t get up to speed with the ability(within the required windows of opportunity to build a cohesive team). It’s not just about a lack of leadership. It’s difficult to be a floor leader when 2/3 of the guys rotating in and out
    are simply behind a learning curve associated with “finds” or “upside” talent. With every “upside” is a “downside” to jaw-dropping potential unrefined/rough around the edges….and the downside with a Crean recruit appears to always be in the basketball maturity/fundamentals/savvy department/s.
    By the time the in-game/court/team skills align with the upside athleticism that guarantees a good share of Crean recruits to play at the next level, it’s simply too late to be much good in that very narrow window of building a mature team that plays on the same page(in terms of talent meshing with comfort at the game).
    Just look at that McIntosh kid tonight…..He’s a long shot to ever play at the next level. But he’s perfect for the college level because his high basketball IQ makes everyone around him better. No college coach can make up for too much lost time in high school/middle school on-the-court experiences.

  8. e.g. Bryant is on a much lower plane of b-ball IQ/awareness/composure/savvy than his high level plane of ability/intensity/emotion/future. There are four of five other post players currently in the BIG who far outshine him in their array of post moves, positioning, and defensive skills. If I want a guy that I can work with in the NBA without serious time constraints, Bryant is my guy. If I want an already somewhat refined dominant man in the middle who possess the matured skills to lead my team to banners…? I’ll take a Happ, Wagner, etc…etc. It’s been a very long time since IU has had a truly refined big….(somebody like a Steve Downing, Benson, Alan Henderson…or a Sullinger(OSU)…or the dozens who end up at UK over the last five or six years).

  9. Final example….Matt Howard on the Butler back-to-back Final Four teams. There was your center with the hunger…the craftiness…the savvy….the vision….the passing skills. Mitch McGary as well. They may be guys just shy of the explosive ability/size for the NBA game, but they were perfect fits to lead teams in March. These were patient post players who combined agility with an array of post moves….They never played faster than their ability and they knew how to work the offense as a center point from the top of the paint. They knew/know how to face-up/face the basket and how to seal off/back down an opponent.
    Bryant is rarely patient in the offense. His vision is stymied by the tendency to rush. His moves are predictable and often out of control.

  10. How do you guys feel about Steve Lavin as a potential new coach? I know he is doing TV now, but had success at UCLA before he was railroaded out of town. Big Ten guy at one point while at Purdue.

  11. I wasn’t a Tom Crean fan, but after last years Big Ten Championship I decided to stop any negativity and support him. I just can not do that anymore. Chris Collins is in his first year at a school who has never made an NCAA tournament and he is doing much more with a lot less. That just shows how a good coach can make all the difference in the NCAA.
    Creans basketball IQ doesn’t reflect the fan bases basketball IQ. His style of play is fun to watch, but I’d rather beat opponents that play like IU. Year after year every team struggles with the same issues. How can it be a constant struggle to inbounds a basketball at this level?
    I think it’s time to hire a coach who has actually played the game at a collegiate level…because most successful NCAA coaches have. I am so sick of excuses. Crean always finds ways to slip excuses in without making them seem like excuses. I’m just sick of it. How many games this year has an opponent gone on at least an 8-0 run? Call a time out and regroup! Like every coach in America! When you look at the losses the deficit is usually spot on with the other teams runs. IU should be a program like Butler or Wisconsin except with better chance of getting more talented kids. Those programs have switch coaches and still operate and a consistently respectable level. Bring in Tony Bennett or Steve Alford. Those guys play smart basketball. Had Alford been hired after Knights departure Iu would already have another banner. He is everything good about Knight without the baggage. What better guy to recruit instate kids that an I Diana Mr. Basketball, A state Champion, a NCAA champion who would be coaching where he won one, and a stereotypical Indiana kid that did go pro? Alford has been a success wherever he has went. His only set back was not being at IU. I’m sure Iowa fans would take him back.

  12. Indy 500 Analogy….

    Many of Crean’s recruits are akin to cars equipped with the best components worthy of eventually being the fastest in the race…Unfortunately, the b-ball IQ is a 10-year-old driver strapped into the seat of a machine with a ton of misfiring horsepower. In a couple of years, they can flash a good four laps in front of NBA scouts….But they’ll never have the driving savvy to put together 500 laps toward a college NCAA title. For a few, the driving skills will finally align with the chassis, engine, and crew….and they’ll become notable drivers of the NBA’s Danica Patrick variety. They look real pretty next to Russell Westbrook.

  13. I’m trying to remember any team with a 3 month melt down such as the Hoosiers. The melt down seems not to be attributable solely to injuries. CTC’s team seem to have a history of sporadic effort.

    Not going to knock any IU player individually, they are good enough to get this far. Some may be playing out of their comfort position. Some may be playing because they are the best player at a certain position as could be found at the time. It’s not a funding issue like some smaller schools are experienced. Appears IU BB has $$$s to burn.

    I think 5-6 years ago CTC mentioned that once he assembled a team of his choosing we would see a new level of play.

    He was right……..

    I don’t think CTC should be fired, he should resign….

  14. It’s clear that the entire coaching staff is failing to do their jobs. How can they in good conscience accept and cash their paychecks ? How can Mr. Glass continue to allow this madness to go on? This thing called Indiana Basketball is a sad story and a public embarrassment. It’s been said IU fans would be in for a rude awakening if Tom Crean were to leave. WRONG. The rude awakening is happening NOW.

  15. Even Crean’s most ardent apologists have disappeared from Scoop. Take away a few trapeze acts and the circus ringmaster simply looks like a loudmouth with a lonely bullhorn. It was never basketball under this man, folks…What took all of you so long? You must have been blinded by the light of a “New Generation.” Save those “Hoosier Rising” tapes….They are skyrocketing as a collectible in mockery.

  16. Maybe the t-shirts can be salvaged….? Change those “We’re Back” t-shirts to “We’re Back to Square One” (courtesy: The Marquette Square of X’s & O’s None).

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